This shows that an amusingly lame but eccentric idea for a road trip can be seriously awesome when the adventurers are wild and crazy in all the right...moreThis shows that an amusingly lame but eccentric idea for a road trip can be seriously awesome when the adventurers are wild and crazy in all the right charming ways, and have many friends that encourage them to live their dreams.(less)
(Sylvia Nasar’s most recent book received an uninspiring review in the New York Times, but referred to her biography of Nash as “a near-perfect biogra...more(Sylvia Nasar’s most recent book received an uninspiring review in the New York Times, but referred to her biography of Nash as “a near-perfect biography.” That led me to two New York Times reviews of that earlier book. The first, Mathematics to Madness, and Back again notes that she wrote “a biography of Nash that reads like a fine novel,” and a few days later was joined in approbation by Between Genius and Madness. The book had drifted deep into the invisible depths of my too-large to-be-read list; it has now been bumped back to the top ranks.)(less)
Abandoned. I'd still like to read on this topic, but this was the wrong biography to start with. Steinberg set out to illuminate the inner Bismarck, and I've still got to catch up on the politics of the era, not the personal demons and neuroses of its key player.(less)
This one is beautifully poetic, but Abbey shows his true misanthropic colors in The Monkey Wrench Gang — his years of solitude in the desert might hav...moreThis one is beautifully poetic, but Abbey shows his true misanthropic colors in The Monkey Wrench Gang — his years of solitude in the desert might have given him gorgeous visions, but they ultimately made him a bad fit for civilization.(less)
Excellent, but not really a science book. Which is only of interest to me because it was the book-of-the-month fo...more(Update as of August 2013 at bottom.)
Excellent, but not really a science book. Which is only of interest to me because it was the book-of-the-month for a one science café's reading group I sometimes attend, and the author read and answered questions at another science café I go to.
Of course, science forms a large part of the background story. The changing paradigm of scientific ethics, actually, is central to how HeLa became famous and, now, infamous.
But the twin narratives that really drive this book aren't scientific stories. One was the tale of how the HeLa cells got into the research domain in the first place, and how it has been used since then — and how a lack of understanding of the virulence of the cell line has caused no small number of problems.
The other narrative was the personal story of how the author slowly won over the survivors of Lacks' family. Synergistically, the research Skloot had to do for the first was exactly what let her break through the barrier of suspicion and mistrust: the Lacks family didn't have the knowledge, skill or contacts to do the research that Skloot did, and her persistence in transparently sharing her findings with the family slowly brought them around.
Unfortunately, I was reading this primarily as a science book, and in that context it only earns three stars: "liked it". Although this is non-fiction, I've also tagged it as "chick-lit" because the larger story is really a melodramatic one that I suspect really appeals to the Oprah crowd. So, if you enjoyed Steel Magnolias but also enjoy the domain of science non-fiction, this might be a sweet read.
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Update, summer 2013— The New York Times reports that the family of Henrietta Lacks is now formally involved in the research into their ancestor's cell line, which is satisfactory at least due to the privacy considerations about their own genetics, as well as ameliorating the unsettling sense of injustice at their complete disassociation from the research. The case served as an extreme example in the debate over research and medical use of tissue harvested for other purposes.
Jeri Lacks Whye, center, one of Henrietta Lacks’s grandchildren, with her own daughters, Jabrea, left, and Aiyana Rogers. Photo by Monica Lopossay for The New York Times
It has been a very long time since I read this, but I recall it as being a easy and fun bio of Ben Jonson, who led an astonishing life, it seems.
I rec...moreIt has been a very long time since I read this, but I recall it as being a easy and fun bio of Ben Jonson, who led an astonishing life, it seems.
I recall being impressed enough that I requested that an antiquarian bookseller run a search for available copies (this was before the internet) to give one as a present to my old college girlfriend, who had been an English major and who convinced me to drastically expand the scope of my reading, for which I have always been grateful.